The Cafe de Paris

Cruising the Past:  Historical look at London’s famous Café de Paris. The Cafe is a London nightclub, opened in 1924, which over the years has featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson, Bert Ambrose, and Maxine Cooper Gomberg. Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.



A video of the CAFE DE PARIS – FROM A MOVIE FILMED IN THE 1930s.

Cafe De Paris, in London’s Piccadilly is one of the most famous and durable venues in the world. With a glittering history, spanning nine decades, the Cafe has consistently played host to a wide variety of powerful and absorbing performers and guests, members of the aristocracy, eminent political figures, dazzling pop stars, captains of industry, superstars from the silver screen and even royalty.

Café de Paris is a London nightclub, opened in 1924, which over the years has featured such performers as Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Gold, Harry Roy, Ken Snakehips Johnson, Bert Ambrose,[citation needed] and Maxine Cooper Gomberg. Louise Brooks made history when she worked there in December 1924, introducing the Charleston (dance) to London.

(Left) Orson Welles dancing with Vivien Leigh. Opening its doors in 1924 under the control of London impresario Harry Foster, the Cafe de Paris quickly established itself as one of Europe’s premier nightspots.

Much of the early success was due to a visit from the Prince of Wales, who after an impromptu midweek visit became a regular guest bringing with him the cram de la cram of European society.

The fusion of a beautiful and elite audience with energetic and groundbreaking cabaret performances separated the venue from its rivals. The main aim of the Cafe De Paris was to see and be seen-a trait that continues even now.

Cafe de Paris during the 1950s.

Liberace at the Cafe de Paris.

The success of the Cafe continued right through the 1930′s, with a whole new host of powerful and successful figures joining the Cafe Society.

The Aga Khan became a frequent visitor as did Lord and Lady Mountbatten, who nearly always ordered the same dinner of “a dozen and a half oysters and steak Diane”.

Due to its’ burgeoning reputation, the top vocalists and cabaret acts from around the world became easy to lure to the Cafe De Paris. The legendary Cole Porter became a regular, and used the venue not only to entertain the top singers of the time, but also to showcase his new songs, often for the very first time.

Princess Margaret leaving the Cafe de Paris.

In 1939 the Cafe was allowed to stay open even though theatres and cinemas were closed by order.

People gossiped their way through the blackout and the Cafe was advertised as a safe haven by Martin Poulson, the maitre d’, who argued that the four solid storeys of masonry above were ample protection.

This tragically proved to be untrue on March 8th 1941 when two 50K landmines came through the Rialto roof straight onto the Cafe dance floor.

A bombed out Cafe de Paris, 9th March 1941

Eighty people were killed, including Ken ‘Snakehips’ Johnston who was performing onstage at the time and Poulson whose words had come back to haunt him.

Had the bomb been dropped an hour later, the casualties would have been even higher.

MARLENE DIETRICH, CAFE DE PARIS, LONDON, 1955

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One comment

  1. Hi,

    I would like to use the image of Princess Margaret leaving the Cafe De Paris in a documentary film project.
    Do you know where I can find copies of the photo and who owns the rights?

    Thanks,
    Chris

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